Appreciating apprenticeships

09 November 2017 | Careers Advice | Thomas Peacock

So, your education is done, what next?                 

With current economic woes and increasing university tuition fees, the traditional route to employment isn't working for a lot of people, but it's often difficult for school-leavers to apply for jobs as they may be lacking in experience.

Luckily, there is another way. An apprenticeship is a high quality, work-based training programme for people who want to develop their skills and gain experience. It also offers young people an opportunity to be paid whilst learning.

Apprenticeships have been around a long time and are an effective way of introducing young minds to the workforce. Over the last few years, the government has invested in apprenticeship initiatives making it easier to get a foot in the door and gain some all-important experience. You could even find yourself beating graduates to roles, by already being a valued member of a company when they are only just applying.

However, there's competition and to be accepted onto a scheme you need to prove that you will use the chance responsibly. Jennifer Carter, HR Manager at CRITICAL Software, shares her inside knowledge on what employers are after.

"What I first look for in candidates applying to the apprenticeship scheme at CRITICAL Software, is a genuine interest in our field of expertise. We want people who will continue to explore, innovate, learn and this is powered by their initial engagement with the industry."

Tip Use your hobbies to help you discover what jobs and industries you might thrive in. What do you enjoy? What are you good at? Convey this in the personal profile and the hobbies/interests sections of your CV.

"I see so many CVs, if a candidate makes their value and suitability obvious, I'm interested; it's so important to ensure your CV is fine-tuned for the role you are going for."

Tip Think you've got nothing appropriate to add? It would be hard nowadays to find a company that didn't need its staff to be computer literate. An obvious advantage younger people have is their natural expertise due to growing up in a digital age. This is a relevant skill to note in your CV. Another thing to consider is how you can relate your previous experiences to the job you want. If a role demands communication skills for example, you could highlight your experience waiting tables, or leading a school project; both require effective communication. Note these important points concisely under 'role responsibilities' in the previous employment/experience section of your CV.

Jennifer continues, "If I'm happy with the candidate's potential ability, I then consider their personality. It's vital that they will not only fit in with our existing structure, but also that they will flourish here. Employee happiness is a key focus for us so if this match shines through in their CV, I'm highly likely to interview them."

Tip Visit the website to discover the company's values. Look at how they represent themselves on social media. Do you think you would fit in, and be able to contribute, not only by working hard, but also to the culture? If so, illustrate this in the personal profile section of your CV. Highlight similarities between what the employer wants and what you can deliver.

If you are successful, regardless of the role, at interview stage there are certain things that will make you stand out: always be punctual, dress appropriately, be polite and believe in what you can offer.

 CRITICAL Software gives young people the chance to enjoy a career in science and technology by providing a route into software engineering for those who have not gone to university. To find out more about CRITICAL's apprenticeship scheme, contact and visit

About the author:

Jennifer Carter has been with CRITICAL Software since 2010, moving through the Operations & HR department and completing her CIPD Level 5 Diploma. Now HR Manager, provides HR support across the many departments of the business. Previously, she worked for the NHS in the Pathology Business Unit, also within HR.

About CRITICAL Software:

In today’s business world, the failure of critical IT systems can irreparably damage missions, profitability and corporate reputations. In extreme cases, software reliability can be a matter of life and death. CRITICAL Software provides systems, software and data engineering services for safety, mission and business-critical applications. The company has been operating in mature markets since 1998, with NASA its first client, and has offices around the world.

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